Arsenal Midfielder Martin Odegaard Takes Part in Norway’s Qatar Protest

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The Norway national team has stood up and made their voice heard, advocating for greater human rights in the leadup World Cup 2022 Qatar.

Ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar last night, the Norwegian team, including Arsenal (on loan from Real Madrid) attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard and Borussia Dortmund scoring sensation Erling Haaland, lined up before kickoff wearing T-shirts over their national-team jerseys that had the message “HUMAN RIGHTS” followed by “Respect on and off the pitch.”

Prior to this display, the players also wore t-shirts in warm-ups with the written message of “RESPECT” followed by “On and off the pitch.” It was a unified team effort, which included Norwegian manager Stale Solbakken. The message is aimed at the oil rich Gulf nation, and its discriminatory laws and conditions against migrant workers who are working to build infrastructure for the World Cup.

As has been documented for years, in multiple outlets all across the world, the building of the stadiums (and other World Cup facilities) has been conducted in intense heat, with very long hours and little break. These conditions have been extremely dangerous, and numerous lives have been lost in the process of preparing for the tournament.

The Guardian claims that 6,500 migrant workers have died in work-related accidents since the tournament was awarded to Qatar in 2010.

Despite the alarming death and serious injury rates in the buildout, migrant workers keep up signing on to the construction projects, as they come from populations were opportunity for work is very scarce. Odegaard, as Norway team captain obviously had a leadership role in the team making their political statement.

He also suffered an ankle injury in the match, and had to be subbed off, but preliminary reports suggest the injury is not serious.

Noway won 3-0, despite Haaland not getting himself onto the scoresheet. But the real story of the night was obviously the message sent in the cause of social justice. Footballers, or professional athletes in general, have a lot of substantial things to say when given the chance and not constrained by handlers and PR flaks.

When athlete thinks cause first, instead of individual brand first, a lot of important and compelling statements and commentary are there to be heard.

Some of Norway’s top-division clubs, including Rosenborg and Tromso, have even called for a boycott of the 2022 World Cup. There is even talk that the Norway FA might consider such an action.

Odegaard and Arsenal are next in action against Liverpool, on April 3. Up next for Norway, is another World Cup qualifier, against Turkey, on Saturday.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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